Shotgun Street Smarts: Getting Started

Aug 4, 2016



A few weeks ago, Eli brought you some tips on setting up your first Shotgun project. This week, we’ll expand a bit on an important topic he brought up: the discovery stage in the roll out plan. At this stage, the studio you are at has decided to use Shotgun for production tracking. Maybe you’ve been there a while, or maybe you just started. In either case, where do you begin?

Being in charge of putting together the studio’s Shotgun workflow can be a daunting task, but just like any project, you start by breaking it down. Before we begin, you may want to bookmark this link. There are tons of tips there that can help you — from setting up a very basic Shotgun workflow to more advanced methods.

The first question you’ll need to answer is: what is your workflow? For example:

     - How does your project start? What’s the “first thing” that happens?
     - Who are the key players?
     - How does the data/information come in?
     - How does it leave the studio?
     - What do you spend a lot of time doing repeatedly?

Understanding this is a very important part of setting up Shotgun and will also help you in the long run as you evolve your workflow. It may help to draw out a diagram of how information flows through your studio. Personally, I have a whiteboard next to my desk that I use for drafting up workflows.

Although I work for Shotgun and know that it works very well, I still need to draw out a map of how I want the information organized when I set up new Shotgun projects. As you start to plan how you want your information grouped together, don’t forget to include other people! Shotgun is meant to be collaborative. For best practices, we encourage everyone in the studio to use it so you’ll want everyone to have the opportunity to give feedback on what they want to see.

You’ll want to start by grouping the information together from a high level. If you are on a film, you know you’ll have Shots, but you’ll want to organize that into Sequences, which is grouped by the Project. Simple enough. Those basic templates are already available to you in Shotgun. If you’re not sure how to map out your workflow, start with those pre-existing template and go with it! You can add or revise those templates to make your own.

Let’s take a TV Episodic workflow as an example. You may want to add additional organization levels like Seasons. Or maybe you’ll organize things by Spots if you’re working on a Commercial. In Shotgun, we call these levels of organization 'Entities'. A Shot is an Entity, a Sequence is an Entity, an Asset is an Entity, etc. You can also enable Custom Entities to track things that may not already be in Shotgun or are unique to your workflow. While entities such as Shots, Sequences, Assets can be renamed, it will be easier to keep their names the way they currently are for as long as possible to avoid confusion later on.

Here's an example of how I might map out an Episodic workflow. We also refer to this as a schema. For those who want more details on how the standard Shotgun schema is set up, see our article on Understanding the Shotgun Schema.


In the image above, you’ll notice that I also have already started thinking about the relationships between Entities. Each Entity is connected both ways. By drawing this out, I'm able to clearly understand which Episodes are in each Season and vice versa.

Once you have the broad scope of work defined, you can start thinking about how to break out each Entity.

     - What information do I want to keep track of in Seasons? Maybe Season number, maybe a year?
     - What about in Shots? What information is important to each Shot?

Then, try taking a look at all of the fields available in each Entity and how they can relate to the information that is important to track. Try to use what you have first, before creating additional fields to store more information. Start simple! It’s much easier to add more detail to your workflow as you need it, than to try to remove detail from it later. We’ve seen some clients set up a very detailed workflow setup that makes updating it complex. When this happens, this leads to clients not updating their information, causing data to be out of sync from what is actually happening in production. The information is only as good as what you’re willing to put in, so keep it simple. Later in this series, we’ll talk about ways to maximize data with minimal input.

Now that you’ve narrowed down “what” information is important to track, you’ll want to think about “how” that information will be used.

     - How does an Asset begin it’s build? Do you wait for concept art to be received to kick off?
     - How is a Shot is finaled?
     - Who are the clients that approve the shot?
     - Internally, what’s the process of approving it to share with the client?
     - How will Shots be delivered?

This is the part that can get tricky. Each studio will have their way of working together, so it’s really important that these workflows are discussed internally and everyone agrees on how things should move through the pipeline.

When you’ve got your workflow set up, start setting up Shotgun! Create those projects, make those fields and start entering in some information to see how it’s all working. Don’t get too invested yet with the information you put in. You just want a little bit of information stored in Shotgun to start to see if the concept you just mapped out works the way you’d like.

Once you have a handle on your Shotgun setup, take a step away from it. Let it sit for a day or two, then come back with fresh eyes. You’ll be surprised to see that you may have added too much detail for some Entities, or you may have a better way of looking at your data than you previously thought. I’ll admit, I’ve definitely come back a few days later to scrap what I did before and start fresh. Don’t be afraid to try it again! There are many ways to track a project. You just have to find the way that works for you and your studio.

It will take a little while to get the right workflow created. Similar to most processes, you’ll need to iterate. While you may be able to get a workflow set up in an afternoon, it probably won’t be the final workflow that you’ll be happy with. The most important thing to remember is that it’s okay to make changes! The beauty of Shotgun is how you can really tailor it to something just for your team.



About Tram: Tram joined the Street Team in March of 2015 and makes sure that we are looking after our amazing clients in the beautiful Los Angeles area. She comes to us with VFX experience across multiple departments, from Senior Producer to Systems, with a dash of hands on pipeline experience for good measure. From Features to Commercials, from Mom-n-Pop shops to some of the old Big 5's, she knows firsthand what it's like to deliver projects with a scrappy team or a fully-staffed studio. Despite having worked in entertainment, she can not recite a single line from any movie, commercial, or even P90X (after 8 months of the same 12 videos over and over...) so don't even ask!